A day when the so-called ‘Big Four’ of English football met on what Sky was promoting as ‘Grand Slam Sunday’ seems a good time to post on the declining competition in the English Premiership. Every fan knows it’s happening – I wanted to demonstrate it for a client for whom it was relevant.

Obviously the data’s there, in the form of League tables and Cup matches. Looking at the last twenty years’ League tables, and using rolling averages to allow for blips, the picture looks like this (click on thumbnail):


Looking at the points gaps between the champions and the 5th and 10th placed clubs, the gaps start tom open up early in this decade – after the Champions’ League money starts to benefit the most consistently successful clubs.

But when you look at the League position of the FA Cup winner (using the same approach of the five year rolling average), the picture started to change in the mid 90s – once the Sky money drove a big financial gap between the Premiership/top tier clubs and the second tier. My guess is that the 90s saw a reduction or consolidation of the number of clubs able to be competitive in the top half of the Premiership (even for a couple of seasons) and when the Champions’ League money arrived it allowed the more successful to pull away decisively – creating the so-called ‘mini-leagues’ within the Premiership which managers talk about.

My instinct is that this is not good for the long-term health of the sport.

A PDF with the two charts and some commentary can be downloaded from here:

Competing in England’s top tier

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